For the "Curtain" challenge
Low clouds shroud the day, compressing the sky. On one small area of the
manicured grounds the square of uniformed officers, onlookers and friends draws
closer together as if pressed by the skyís enormous weight.
The gray leaches individuality from the crowd, veils their faces, blurs the
blues of uniforms, until like an old tinted photograph the hues disappear and
only shades of gray remain.
Ray Vecchio looks across the casket at his fellow pallbearers, but even this
close the curtain of mist between them softens the rigidity of Welshís bulky
form and hides the agony on Jack Hueyís lowered face. Ray gives the rest of
them a cursory glance; they are nearly invisible. Everything fades, the stars
and stripes that drape the casket no longer the colors of service, of blood, of
valor. He closes his eyes for a moment and searches for color behind his
eyelids, but itís the memory of color he finds, the bright colors of fire,
of burning, red and yellow and blue and white, but these are the colors of
death. Ray draws a shaky breath, shivering, and opens his eyes again to look
into Fraserís face.
Funny. His partner is the only spot of color in all the gray, the only spot
that refuses to fade. Itís more than the bright red of his tunic; Fraser burns
with some kind of inner flame that keeps him alive in this place of death. For
a moment Ray resents that, resents him for it. Doesnít he understand whatís
going on here? Doesnít he get it? Doesnít he feel the despair, the anger, the
pain the rest of them share?
The moment passes. Vecchio looks again at his partnerís face and knows heís wrong;
Fraser gets it, all right. Fraser burns because this is so unjust, so unfair
that a life has been cut short. He wants to fix things, and he canít. Fraser
wasnít close to the dead officer, but his face says he knew him intimately all
the same, because heís known other officers like him, here and at home. Today
they all know each other, all the policemen standing at attention around them.
Today they are all mourners. All partners, all brothers.
Vecchio looks into his own partnerís eyes and nods. They have their
differences, and they will have anger and pain between them to come. But right
now they understand each other perfectly.
Snow is falling lightly now, drawing another curtain across the scene, further
distancing him from the onlookers. Ray Vecchio watches his partner arrange his
face, and Ray draws a curtain across his own heart. If he concentrates, he can
keep the anger inside him, waiting. Later there will be time for that, for
using his anger like a bright silver blade to destroy the person who killed
Louis Gardino. For now he must control it, hide it, close himself off from it,
or he will never make it through the day.
A signal, and together they lift Gardinoís casket. Louis Gardino, jokester,
occasional irritant, teller of off-color jokes, twice-divorced loser at love,
all around pain in the ass. Poker buddy. Police officer. Friend.
The six men breathe together and step forward as one. The snow drops its lace
curtain on the scene.
redchance @ aol.com
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